The two-month Super Series break in January-February from 2015 announced by the Badminton World Federation, which opens up a ready window for the Indian Badminton League, may end up cutting both ways. Player availability — especially of the international names — which is so crucial for the success of the IBL in its second season, remains the biggest challenge confronting the organisers who are contemplating moving the dates from its previously announced September 30-October 15 schedule to tentatively early next year.
The IBL’s Governing Council is scheduled to meet in the second week of May to finalise the schedule, but with BAI sending out a press release announcing its intent to shift the dates, new tournament dates are imminent — most likely pushed to the January-February international season break.
The IBL’s commercial partners Sporty Solutionz while confessing that the change of dates looked most likely, were awaiting further discussions while remaining keen on the original September schedule.
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“We are debating whether the new two-month window should be used or we should reduce the duration and prepone the finish of the league to October 13,” Ashish Chaddha, chief of Sporty Solutionz said. Dates for the Denmark Open – a prestigious Super Series Premier event scheduled for October 14-19 were found to be clashing with the IBL’s finale, but it’s the jam-packed season that is proving to be the headache.
“The schedule’s too tight, and events like Asian and Commonwealth Games come once in four years, so they are priorities. Also, we have the Thomas-Uber Cup too, besides the regular World Championships. Players availability becomes a problem in such a packed season,” Pradeep Gandhe, member of the Governing Council reiterated.
However, Chaddha’s reservations come from the continuity point of view. “It’s only the second edition. Last year was a success and there was a momentum to the euphoria and buzz around it. So we think the gap should not be of 18-19 months between the two editions. Ideally we’d like it this year, but we’re not the only stakeholders in this. We’ll speak to the sponsors and the TV broadcasters too,” he said.
Elaborating on the economics of it all, Chaddha explained that sponsor’ enthusiasm – translating into digging into deeper pockets – was greater during the festive-season in September.
“It dips a tad in the fourth quarter from January, but we’ll go by the dates given to us,” he ends.
The world body BWF’s president Thomas Lund had announced that starting 2015 the international elite season would start from March, giving the top players a semblance of an off-season. While he was supportive of the idea of a league like the IBL, the BWF has refrained from naming it as an official window for national leagues.
Competition from UK League
Amidst the start of an exceptionally busy season for Asian players, Badminton England announced the setting up of its own National Badminton League, complete with six franchises to be run on monthly match nights from 6 October 2014 through to June 2015. With loosely the same team-format, the NBL has found its TV spots on Sky Sports, and is pushing at an ambitious rate. “The teams will purchase players in an auction format on 2nd June with each team featuring 8 players. Teams will feature the best talent from this country including Olympians, Team England players and also have the ability buy European and International talent,” the announcement declared.
The NBL poses the ability to majorly dip into the IBL’s predominantly European foreign shuttlers, who might well fancy hopping across the channel if the money is right rather than trekking down to Asia if the figures add up to the same.
“It is the most natural phenomenon if other countries try to replicate IBL’s success model, but the long lasting league will be the one that’s organised best. Ideally these leagues should supplement each other, not kill off each other’s ventures. But time will tell which ones become popular, offer most money and can sustain,” Gandhe noted.
Chaddha was confident the IBL could withstand this competition. “IBL’s one of a kind held at one stretch, while the UK league might be only weekends,” he stated.
IBL’s franchises are willing to wait it out till January if that means stabilising into a permanent slot. “We’d prefer full strength of players because if there’s injuries to specialists, doubles for example, we need to be prepared,” said Vijay Lancy of Bangalore’s Banga Beats, “so we’ll be fine with January,” he added.
Chaddha also claimed that the Chinese had verbally confirmed they’d send some of their players for this year’s edition. “Even for the September bracket,” he said, though adding that they were still to sign on the dotted line, which prevented him from announcing the names. The last date was April 30 for the entries for an additional drafting auction. “Whether top players or not I’d not like to comment on right now,” he said.